If you have type 2 diabetes, you may feel abnormally thirsty and have a need to urinate frequently. One other possibility? You may lose weight without even trying. If it sounds like a weight-loss dream come true, it's actually more of a nightmare.
Because your body doesn't have enough insulin or is losing sensitivity to insulin, you can't shuttle blood sugar into muscle cells. Blood sugar rises to toxic levels and you begin to excrete that excess sugar into the urine. At this point some people may shed pounds without dieting.
Kim Palmaffy, 61, a contractor in Maplewood, N.J., was close to 300 pounds when he began to show signs of type 2 diabetes ten years ago. At 5'10", he knew he needed to lose weight. And then it started happening all on its own. The pounds started flying off, sometimes up to three pounds a week. "I got down to like 250 pounds over a period of weeks."
You may feel exhausted
His clothes began to fit better, but Palmaffy was feeling terrible. "I couldn't sleep, I started to urinate all the time, and I was always thirsty." It began to interfere with his work. "I had to get off the roof and take a leak all the time, as dumb as it sounds," he says.
A visit to his doctors showed that Palmaffy's blood glucose, the type of sugar the body uses for energy, was a whopping 450 mg/dL, four times what's considered normal on a fasting blood glucose test110 mg/dL.
"He started me on a whole battery of medications; I found that the medications were very positive," he said. "We finally settled on Glucotrol (glipizide), five milligrams twice a day." He also takes a cholesterol-lowering drug.
Palmaffy had to make some dietary changes to cope with the diagnosis. He found it wasn't that difficult. His two children are vegetarians and his wife was happy to prepare healthier food. He now eats more fruits and vegetables, leaner cuts of meat, and baked chicken instead of fried.
He also boosted his exercise, because it can lower blood sugar. He wears a pedometer and can walk six to eight miles a day as part of his job. "After 10 years I feel pretty good," he says.
Coping with depression
However, Palmaffy went through a deep depression about two years after he was diagnosed. People with diabetes have a 50% greater risk of depression than nondiabetics.
"I went through a depressive state of fear," he says, triggered in part by the thought of complications like blindness and amputation. "You're only 50 and you're still immortal and then your mortality becomes an issue."
His depression lasted about two to three years, and he still feels it once in a while. He didn't seek treatment, but he did try to stop "dwelling on the dark side," he said. "My wife said, 'You sit around and mope too much.'"
Focusing on hobbies, which include competitive model shipbuilding and car shows, took his mind off his fears and got him out of the house. "I do a lot of things I didn't do before," he said. "It's a redirection of energy."